‘After surviving Typhoon Haiyan, we had to cope with three more typhoons. But now that we have moved into our new shelter, I know my family is finally safe.’ These are the words of Anna Lisa Calvadores, a young mother who lives in small, tight knit community on an exposed hillside in Eastern Samar in the Philippines.
Toby Ash who is the Philippines country coordinator for ShelterBox, recently met some of the people who are involved with ShelterBox’s projects to create resilient ‘transitional’ shelters in the country following the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan.
For more than a year, Anna Lisa and her family lived in a tiny, makeshift shelter cobbled together from tarpaulins and materials salvaged from her old home, which was completely destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the country in November 2013.
The typhoon was one of the strongest storms ever recorded and destroyed not only homes and buildings, but people’s livelihoods too, leaving them without the income to start rebuilding. She and other vulnerable families are now moving into safe, resilient shelters being built by ShelterBox and our project partners across areas hardest hit by the disaster.
The generosity of our donors following the extraordinary scale of destruction wrought by Haiyan has enabled us to continue our assistance to those who lost their homes. Working in partnership with four larger international aid agencies, ACTED, Handicap International, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we are constructing almost 1,700 ‘transitional’ shelters, made largely from locally sourced materials. We are working in Eastern Samar, where Haiyan first hit landfall, in Leyte, close to the devastated city of Tacloban, and on the island of Bantayan.
In addition to the creation of the shelters themselves, the projects promote a wider understanding of how communities can best protect themselves in the future by passing on, and training carpenters in, techniques to rebuild safer shelters. In this way, communities are taking an active role in the recovery process and helping themselves to become more resilient to future disasters.
One such carpenter is 50 year old Nilo Visto, from the municipality of AlangAlang in northern Leyte, who underwent 15 days of training as part of the project we are carrying out with our implementing partner ACTED. He now has a certificate from the Philippines’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) after demonstrating his knowledge of safe building practices. Since graduation, Nilo has helped construct 20 strong shelters for us in his village. With his newfound skills, Nilo believes that he will be able to find more regular work to help support his family and also be able to assist his neighbours rebuild safely.
The shelter projects we are supporting target the most vulnerable of society – often the elderly, physically challenged and families who have limited capacity to recover on their own. Other members of the community are often happy to help out with the construction work even though they will not be beneficiaries themselves. In Anna Lisa’s village, where we are supporting the work of CRS, we found a large group of residents busy making gravel from large boulders, which will be used in the foundations.
The projects we are undertaking also engage the wider community in build back safer awareness activities, from catchy build back safer songs to house-to-house visits. These activities clearly paid dividends in December last year when Typhoon Hagupit struck areas we are working in. This time they were far better prepared, with many households tying down their shelters and reinforcing their roofs in the hours before the storm hit. None of our newly built shelters sustained any damage.
The reality of climate change is that super typhoons such as Haiyan are no longer one off events. So far this year, the Philippines has already endured three powerful typhoons. Our continued engagement is helping to ensure they are better able to withstand extreme weather events in the future, minimising not only the future risk to life, but also the need for us to return with emergency aid in the years to come.